Sunday, 24 July 2011


Well, it has to be said, I pity anybody that is currently on holiday down here. The weather for the past week has been truely appalling and very unseasonal. Temperatures have struggled to reach 20 degrees with daytime temperatures even dipping down to 12 degrees and it has rained on more days than not. You would not normally expect to smell that unmistakeable odour of woodsmoke in the air at this time of year in these parts but there it is, no mistake.

We have however had the odd little interlude of dry weather which I have tried to make the most of, with an outing up the Gorges de la Frau last week during which I managed to run a long uphill section that I had not run before, which was nice. Then yesterday, a short but sweet ride on the roadie which saw me knock 2 minutes off my previous fastest time up to the Col between Belesta and Puivert. The legs were working well but unfortunately my new chain was giving me problems in the middle gears and there was a gusty wind after Puivert which saw me cut the ride shorter than I would have liked. Still, it was nice to get out!

This morning, clearer skies and a brief return of that yellow orb, so the pooch and I headed up to the Plateau de Sault. I wanted to explore somewhere new and found a lovely little 11km/370m+ 'petite randonnée' from Roquefeuil. I was determined to make the most of being out so tried to take my time although the tracks and paths were so good, it was hard not to run it all!

The Plateau de Sault is a paradise for walkers, runners and mountain bikers at this time of year and there is so much up there yet to explore. I think I will be taking my mountain bike for a spin up there as soon as the weather improves.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Night time antics

It's been getting pretty noisy around these parts after dusk. Indeed, our sleep has been severely disrupted on most nights since we got back from our travels. No, we cant blame the French and their penchance for a good fête. The responsibility lies firmly at the door of these wee critters;
Meet the gli-gli, aka the edible dormouse. Cute? Maybe. But they sure know how to party. We shall be getting hold of some humane traps after the weekend and will see just how many we can get hold of. I suspect the family is quite large!

Friday, 15 July 2011


I am starting to think that France disagrees with me. I had only been back in the country 24 hours when I had a nasty gastric attack which was quickly followed by tooth/gum problems. For the past week I have been experiencing the most excruciating pain in my upper gum/jaw which the max dose of codeine/paracetamol and ibuprofen has been unable to calm. It has been particularly puzzling as brushing my teeth has not been in the slightest bit painful and my gums are not red or inflamed at all as far as I can see. But could I get an emergency appointment with a dentist in order to get it checked out? Could I hell as like! I have consequently been feeling generally washed out and listless and on the verge of going to the hospital to try and get it sorted. But this morning I was finally able to get in to see a random dentist in Lavelanet who x-rayed my top gum and decided that I had some inflammation in between two teeth which could be causing the pain and for which he has prescribed a regular application of 'argile verte' which, to you and me is kaolin! I had never heard of such a thing being used in a dental context but I have nothing to lose and so have been applying the paste to the affected area this afternoon. I have to say that it does seem to calm the discomfort in the short term but will it resolve the problem in the long term? I bloody well hope so!

Despite the tooth issue, I have been forcing myself to get out and stay active despite my general listlessness. Last weekend we had a lovely 70km/830m+ ride on the roadies in the warm sun down to Esperaza in the Aude which reassured me that my fitness was still there which was nice. The sunflowers are now out in the area which is a wonderful summery sight.
The only downside to the ride was a collision what I think was a wasp during a descent which resulted in a very painful sting on my bottom lip! Fortunately, the pain and the swelling subsided within the hour and there is no lasting damage.

A kick up the bum also got me out for a 10km run from the house yesterday and then today a short 44km/540m+ roadie circuit up to the Plateau de Sault which again reassured me that my legs have not suffered .... which was nice. But I am looking forward to getting back to feeling 100% again and to getting out  on the mountain bikes with my bestest buddy Pat next week while Andy is up in the Alps in Sadie watching le Tour de France. I don't like feeling under par!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Travels end

We left the Quantocks and headed to mum's in Dorset where we had a lovely few days doing final bits of shopping, washing and generally getting caught up with ourselves before we contemplated the journey home. Taff enjoyed his last walk across the tracks from mum's....
... but then we headed in the Portsmouth direction ready to catch the ferry at 08.30 Tuesday morning. I found a cracking overnight spot on the website which was perfectly situated at the end of the road from where the foot ferry goes over to Hayling Island and just 10 minutes from the Channel ferry terminal. Perfect!

The ferry trip to le Havre was uneventful but from there we relied on the GPS to take us down towards Alencon avoiding toll motorways. This wasn't the best move for various reasons so I took control of the map and directed us without a hitch. I knew roughly the area that I wanted to head for (The Parc naturel régional Normandie-Maine between Alencon and Le Mans) but didn't know whether we would be able to find a wild camping spot at which to park up for the night. But I spotted a lake on the map. Where there are lakes there always parking spots. This one, near the village of Sillé-Guillaume, was a cracker and clearly a well-known spot for motorhome and campervan overnighting! 
Just across the road was the lovely little lake...
... plus a little restaurant from which we enjoyed a takeaway pizza. There were waymarked mountain bike circuits from the lake but unfortunately a decidedly dicky tummy prevented me from doing anything vaguely active while we were there, which was a shame. We parked up for 2 nights and then decided to make the big push for home in one go .... a push of over 8 hours of driving. Fortunately, driving conditions were good.... it wasn't too hot and the autoroutes were as empty as they always are... and we were home by 7pm with the evening ahead of us. We had been away for 6 weeks. The fact that we had only planned on being away for 2-3 weeks says a lot. Sadie has been such a pleasure to spend time in. I can't wait to go away in her again, although that won't be before September when the temperatures drop and the holiday season has come to an end. The French Alps are on the cards and then we are intending to spend some considerable time down in Spain over the winter. Fun times!

But back at base, unfortunately, over the 6 weeks in which we had been away, some adders had taken up residence around the woodpile in front of the house. The dog was our main worry, so we had a go at trapping them and releasing them well away from the house. The biggest one escaped but the one that we did catch was a decent size!

We also caught some smaller grass snakes from around the woodpile and likewise 'rehomed' them away from the house. I don't like snakes! But they weren't our only concern. I was not best pleased when I took a shower and realised that the water was not draining and the shower tray was filling with worryingly brown water. Plunging the plug hole had no effect whatsoever. There was clearly a blockage somewhere down the line! We eventually unearthed (literally) the waste water pipe where it exits the house. It was not connected to the pipe which looked like it should carry waste away from the house and it was filled with all kinds of detritus. A good rodding eventually cleared the blockage and the water eventually ran clear. Relief!